Posts Tagged ‘intentional eating’

Weighing in, and bacon.

I don’t know if you read this blog for the witty turns-of-phrase (yes, I flatter myself), for the insightful links from the research department, because you have nothing better to do, or because you keep thinking that sooner or later I’ll lose some more weight.

If that last reason is your reason, I have good news and bad news for you tonight:  No, I haven’t lost weight since the last time I posted a weigh-in. I was 262 this morning, which isn’t bad considering how much I stretched my “program” since I was last posting regularly in March, but it’s not the same thing as losing weight.  The good news is that now I’m pissed-off about it.  Which isn’t a good motivator for everyone, but for me, it’s always been a fine way to keep my mind on the project at-hand.  Being angry about something sharpens my focus.

Why am I pissed-off?  Well, there are the obvious reasons – primarily that I’ve been stalled within a few pounds for too long, and since I actually write about his stuff on the internet it’s kind of embarrassing to be stalled for so long for no other reason than that I haven’t been on-task.  I wanted to be farther along than this before summer, and I’m not, and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

But that’s not all.  The truth is – and we all know this – that there are a lot of too-good-to-be-true weight-loss gimmicks out there, and if people like me who are doing this sensibly don’t succeed, and don’t share that success, the gimmicks win.  And then everybody loses, because the gimmicks don’t work.  At least not in the long run.

So I won’t have it.  No white-bread hamburger bun, no bowl of cheese-grits, no Kraft Mac and Cheese tastes good enough for me to let the gimmicks win without a fight.

Speaking of hamburger buns, here’s a bonus bacon cheeseburger link and a couple of thoughts.  You may have read that McDonald’s announced they will phase out using pigs from gestation-crates for their pork products.  Good news, right?  Yeah, turns out they’re not going to actually, ummm, do that for about ten years.  One more reason to stay away from fast food.

Beyond that, let’s talk about bacon cheeseburgers for a minute.  A while back, in one of my more lucid moments in this process, it occurred to me that when I order a bacon cheeseburger – or any sort of beef burger – what I taste is the burger.  Furthermore, that’s what I want to taste when I order a burger – the beef.  So I tried really thinking and tasting my burger (yeah, eating intentionally) to see how much the bacon was adding to the experience.  Answer?  Almost nothing.  And on further review, I think I’m going to jettison the cheese.  A good burger stands on its own.  No reason to tart up a good piece of beef.  It’s insulting to both the cow and the pig.

Yeah, I still eat bacon, you bet I do.  But I save it for places where it really makes a difference – carbonara, next to an egg, places where it belongs.  It doesn’t belong on a burger.  So I don’t put it there anymore.  And I don’t miss it.

Thanks for reading – don’t be shy about passing this along to a friend!

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Maybe I’m Just a Control Freak.

Probably not.  I’m perfectly happy to let the river flow by while I sit on a rock and stare into the woods.  As long as that proverbial river keeps flowing and the rock doesn’t fall apart and the woods don’t catch fire.  Which is why I rarely get to do that, because something always needs my attention.

Like, for instance, my weight.  I’d have been thrilled to just eat my way to my eighth or ninth decade.  Until it became apparent to me that without me taking the wheel and being intentional about the way I eat and tune my body, I wouldn’t make seven decades, much less eight or nine.

Turns out lots of things are that way.  I find that living intentionally – taking control of those things within my reach – is a hell of a good way to become “lucky.”  I’ll write a whole post (with links) about that one day soon (which might mean tomorrow, might mean November), but for now, let me tell you about a (mostly) daily routine that gives me an strangely high sense of fulfillment.

About five evenings out of seven, I take five minutes or so to “set up” for the next morning’s breakfast.  I get the coffee machine set (and almost always remember to push the “auto” button), find and sort everybody’s vitamins and such, lay out the bowls, cups and mugs and just generally prepare the kitchen for the onslaught of my sprightly daughters.  The five-ish minutes I spend sometime before bed probably saves me fifteen the next morning.

But the time it saves isn’t the issue:  I feel better at night knowing the morning is ready, and I can actually enjoy breakfast with the sprightly ones (my lovely wife usually handles the dressing and brushing, etc. while I shower and then I handle the breakfast while she showers).  By taking control of the morning, I feel in control of the day.  Everything flows better all day long.

The few days I don’t get around to preparing for breakfast, the next day starts in a hole.  Which means climbing out of the hole becomes job one instead of whatever should have been job one.

What does this all have to do with losing weight and/or living healthier?  This whole thing is about being in control of a part of my life that has been consistently, if privately, out of control.  So every bit I can bring into control, the better it all works.

“Why Does That Chocolate Chip Cookie Have Such Power Over Me?”

That’s not me asking the question, it’s former FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler.  Dr. Kessler, he’s a pretty smart guy – Harvard MD, Chicago JD, pediatrics residency at Johns Hopkins, ran the FDA under both Democratic and Republican presidents – and a couple of years ago he wrote a book about why we (me, a bunch of you readers, him, etc.) can’t stop eating things we know are killing us.

The End of Overeating:  Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite is something you should read if you’ve ever wondered why you are driven to distraction by the dessert menu at Chili’s … even though you just pounded your way through a basket of chips and salsa and the chicken-fried steak.  Or if you’ve ever wondered why your spouse, buddy, parent, kid, etc. exhibits that kind of behavior.

The Wall St. Journal and the New York Times both agree.  This book is worth your time.  Kessler asked the question in my headline of himself, and had the training and resources to figure it out.  He’s not some skinny doc preaching from an ivory tower to the unwashed masses about why we should avoid bourgeois chain restaurants, this is a guy who says (in the Times article) of himself:

“I wouldn’t have been as interested in the question of why we can’t resist food if I didn’t have it myself,” he said. “I gained and lost my body weight several times over. I have suits in every size.”

I feel like we’re brothers, me and Dr. Kessler.  In the WSJ article, he says:

“The one thing I can assure you: At the core, it’s fat, sugar and salt. Not everything activates each of us the same. Here’s the fundamental point: We are wired to focus on the most salient stimuli in our environment. If your kid is sick today, that’s what you think about. For some people it’s sex, gambling, alcohol. For many of us it’s food. And within that category, different types of food are salient. You have to condition yourself to take the power out of the stimulus.” (Emphasis mine)

Several of Kessler’s points are the same  as the Michael Pollan ideas I discussed in a previous  post.  But the ideas in this book (or just in the articles linked above, if you really don’t have time for the book) are exactly the answer some of us have been looking for.  He doesn’t give you excuses – or at least he’s not trying to – but rather ammunition to use in your war (should you choose to declare one) on the kind of “food” that’s trying to kill you.

I have some examples of what Kessler’s writing about.  You may recall a few weeks ago I wrote about a visit to a local pub that used to be a favorite of mine.  I’d been doing fine on my path to better eating.  But that afternoon, I decided a basket of fries wouldn’t hurt me.  And the waitress brought my beef-n-cheddar melt on white bread instead of wheat.  And I finished a couple of the chicken fingers my sprightly daughters left behind (because they were, you know, there).  I used to eat that stuff, if not every day, four or five times a week at a minimum.  It’s been long enough now that the taste it left in my mouth was not, shall we say, a welcome one.  More importantly, it took me more than 24 hours to get rid of the overwhelming need to eat fatty, sweet, gooey desserts.  Which I was able to resist, partially because I recognized the cause and was aware that indulging the craving wouldn’t end the craving.

Seriously, before that meal it had been months since I had that kind of craving … but all it took was one meal of the kind described by Kessler to kick those cravings into high gear.

Last week I had the same issue with potato chips.  I knew better than to eat them, but once I did my desire for more, More, MORE fat and salt and sugar and fat and salt and sugar and fat and salt and sugar was the single most important thing on my mind for the rest of the day.

Kessler’s writing about powerful stuff here, and he wants to help you and me.  It’s an easy read.  Take the time, and if it doesn’t apply to you, pass it on.  Trust me … you know somebody it can help.

Five Things I Thought I’d Miss But Don’t

It’s Five Things Wednesday, so let’s get started with this list of five things I thought I’d miss when I gave them up, but don’t miss at all:

1.)  Diet Coke.  I’ve been drinking Diet Coke (just for the taste of it) since the early 90’s.  I’ve put away enough Diet Coke to, in the immortal words of Lynyrd Skynyrd, turn a battleship around.  As regular readers know, I gave it up before I committed to my current weight-loss/healthy living goals, and haven’t had a DC since Christmas Eve (2010).  For months I couldn’t pass a cooler in a convenience store without desperately wanting to reach out and grab a cool, refreshing, contour-bottled Diet Coke.  And then one day I looked at a cooler and realized I had no interest in drinking a Diet Coke.   For those of you contemplating walking away from aspartame-sweetened sodas, it may be helpful to know it took me about four months for the craving to go away.  Your mileage may vary.  I’m happy to have it behind me – there’s way too much stuff on that ingredient list that I can’t pronounce, and that can’t be good.  Side benefit:  I save an average of about a buck-and-a-half a day by leaving that stuff alone.

2.)  Elevators.  Since I started taking the stairs I’m amazed (and saddened) at how much time I used to waste in those tiny mechanical boxes, waiting for something to happen after I pushed the button.  I still use them sometimes (for instance, if the sprightly daughters are with me, stairs take a really loooong time, and I don’t take the stairs more than about three stories), and when I do I can’t believe how frustrating they are.  Most of ’em are kinda nasty as well.

3.)  “Good” Parking Spots.  The parking spots right next to the door (whatever door that is) are crowded, difficult to turn into and often without shade.  And I don’t waste time waiting for somebody to vacate a spot.  Viva shady parking spots!

4.)  Double Quarter-Pounders with Cheese.  I’m a little surprised McDonald’s stock price hasn’t tanked since I gave up fast food back in December.  I used to eat A LOT of these burgers.  Sometimes with fries (I still maintain that McD’s fries, direct from the fryer, with the proper amount of salt added at the proper time, are the very best fries anywhere), sometimes with a Filet-O-Fish on the side, usually with a tub of the aforementioned Diet Coke.   Not only were they quick and portable, they were tasty.  But it only took me a couple of weeks to forget about ’em.  At this point I can’t even remember what they tasted like.  The fries, they’re a different story.

5.)  Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate-Chip Cookie-Dough Ice Cream.  Sorry Ben and Jerry.  I want to save the world, just like you do (although when you sold-out to Unilever I suspect your interest in saving the world waned a bit), and I will attest that you make the very best mass-produced ice cream there is, bar none.  But eating your fine product a full pint at a time (’cause I never left any in the container) was making me think I should reserve a room at the local cardiac ICU facility.  This was one of the easier foods to give up, actually.  No cravings at all.  Which tells me it probably had fewer strangely-addictive chemicals than most of the stuff I was consuming, but it still had to go.

I noticed yesterday that the fine folks at WordPress.com have added a “share” bar at the bottom of my posts on this blog for those of you who use The Twitter and/or The Facebook.  While I primarily write this blog to keep myself on the straight-and-narrow, food-wise (and eventually exercise-wise), I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t really dig it when people actually read what I’ve written.  So don’t be shy about using those little buttons.  Thanks!

— (part II)

I’ve been advised that at least one of you is perturbed that I sometimes promise to write about a particular topic but never seem to get around to it. I do feel guilty about that, but let’s face it, I have a fairly short attention span.  That said, I’ll be making a concerted effort to address the issue and clean out the promised-posts backlog within the week.

And again, thank you for reading!

Five Things That Have Helped Me Lose Weight

I hereby proclaim Wednesdays on this blog to be “Five-Things-Wednesdays.”  

Over the past few days several people have asked me what I “did” to lose the first 19 pounds.  The sad news is that there’s no magic bullet, no turnkey fad diet I can reference.   But enough people have asked that I decided to list below five things I’ve employed to help me lose weight:

1.)  As you might surmise from the title of the blog, I skip dessert.  Actually I skip sweets altogether.  That started in March, and led to my getting serious about losing weight.  I’ve eaten fewer than five desserts since then, and even those were in markedly smaller quantities than I’d ever have eaten before.  I don’t miss them, except on rare occasions (which I’ll describe in a future post – stay tuned).

2.)  As the subtitle of the blog suggests, I take the stairs if there is an option to do so.  And I park farther away than I normally would if there is an option to do so.  All of which I like to think of as passive exercise.

3.)  I stopped eating fast food.  What is “fast food?”  If there’s a drive-up window and the food comes out in a small paper sack, it’s fast food.   Since Christmas Eve 2010 I’ve eaten exactly three Taco Bell chicken quesadillas, and that is the only thing that passes for fast food I’ve eaten since then (which was before I even got serious about losing weight – I just decided fast food wasn’t doing me any favors).  Do I miss it?  Yes.  Because it’s fast.  I could drive through Burger King, check my email while sitting in my car in the line and eat the burger(s) while I was driving.  Can’t do any of that without fast food.  I do not, however, miss the “food” itself.

4.)  I stopped drinking sugary/fake sugary sodas at the same time.  I drink water, bubbly water (H2O with CO2 and maybe a little natural flavor) and occasionally tea (unsweetened – and yes, I miss that), sometimes juice (real juice – no high-fructose corn syrup added) and coffee.

5.)  I write this blog.  Which helps me focus on what I’m doing and keeps me accountable to the people who read it.  I want you to make endless fun of me if you see me with McDonald’s special sauce smeared on my tie or buttercream icing on my nose.  Because I don’t like it when people make fun of me, I’ll make an extra effort not to do the things that would lead you to do so.

And a bonus thing number 6.)  I avoid white-bread and all white-refined flour products whenever possible.  Sometimes it’s not possible without being fairly rude, and I’m not ready to do that just yet.  But when it is possible, which is most of the time, I opt for whole-wheat/whole-grain breads, cereals, rices and pastas.

The Cheese May Not Have Been a Good Idea

Most days for lunch I’ve been eating some fruit.  A lot of pineapple.  I like pineapple.  Maybe a whole-wheat pita or two with some hummus or something.  Handful of mixed nuts or two at odd times during the day.

Wednesday I went to the Publix looking for the “fruit salad” (again, it’s mostly pineapple) I like, and because I was in the wrong Publix, they didn’t have it.  But they had cheese.  Lots of cheese.  Cheeses from around the world (or at least North America and Western Europe).  So I ate some cheese for lunch.  About fifty percent too much cheese.

Now, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with eating cheese for lunch.  And I love it.  But I haven’t been eating much cheese by itself, and apparently I need to re-calibrate my system for what is an acceptable amount of the stuff.  Because about ten minutes after I stopped, I felt pretty rotten and it sat like a lump of processed lead in my belly until about bedtime.

I’m not going to stop eating cheese, but I’ll have to experiment with quantities.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Back In Gear

Progress!  269 this morning, which is down two pounds from last Friday.  And the one before.

Eating intenionally makes all the difference in the world.  Last week, too many helpings and too much lemonade kept me stuck at 271.  This week I made the conscious – and necessary – effort to think about what I was eating and how it would affect my weekly weigh-in.  I ate the remains of a croissant this past Sunday (it’s a dad thing … kids leave a lot of food behind), but instead of randomly wolfing it down I thought it through first and made sure to savor.  That may sound ridiculous to a lot of you, which probably means you’ve never been where I am.  Others of you know exactly whereof I speak.

Which brings me to another point.  There are really two kind of grownups interested in losing weight:  Those trying to lose five or ten pounds to fit into their favorite jeans, suit, etc., and those who are working on shedding 20, 30, 40 percent (or more) of their body weight.  Those are two vastly different ways of thinking about weight loss.  There are similarities – both include an element of vanity (one of my motivations is to look better) – but five or ten pounds isn’t going to become an eventual medical emergency for most people.  Eighty pounds will.

My plan is to become one of you people who need to lose five pounds.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s twelve weeks, eighteen pounds.

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